An affecting and unique look at an oft-overlooked period of history.
Label: Play It Again Sam
Released: 7th July 2017
It’s incredibly easy to write Public Service Broadcasting off as a gimmick; mashing together public service films and archival audio with electronica and rock. It’s as though two history teachers have thought up a “fun” and “cool” way to teach history. But as the project continued, it became clear that PSB had latched on to something special.
After tackling public education films and the Space Race, the latter to truly breathtaking effect on The Race For Space, their third album, ‘Every Valley’, hones in on the Welsh mining communities, exploring the pride of miners, even in the darkest of times. It avoids personalities like Thatcher and Scargill in favour of a broader look at the industry’s tumultuous history without losing any of the emotional power.
Title track ‘Every Valley’ and ‘People Will Always Need Coal’ encapsulate the prestige that came with mining. Small villages were celebrated for powering an entire country. It’s full of hope, with sweeping strings and bright guitars.
It’s with ‘All Out’ that things take a turn towards the history many of us know. Thrashing guitars that sound more at home on a PUP record channel the anger and frustration of the Thatcher-era strikes; this distinctly un-PSB moment standing out for all the right reasons.
‘Every Valley’ is also a first for guest vocalists. However, PSB records have always been better when letting the archival audio speak for itself and the likes of James Dean Bradfield and Traceyanne Campbell, while doing a decent job, detract from the message to its detriment.
Regardless, ‘Every Valley’ captures the history of the coal industry rather succinctly. At first, there’s hope, then there’s anger, but there’s always a feeling of pride and dignity maintained. It paints broad strokes in an era that deserves a more nuanced exploration, sure, but it’s an affecting and unique look at this oft-overlooked period of history nonetheless. Chris Taylor